My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Why I Am A Republican, part IX

" . . . secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

This is the portion of the clause that, at first glance, seems hardest to define. After all, what we take for granted in this day and age as a "blessing of Liberty" would have left the Founding Fathers aghast at what we presume to be the responsibility of the government.

In the time of the Founding Fathers, essential blessings of Liberty would have included, but not be limited to, Freedom of Speech, Freedom OF Religion, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of the Press . . . .

Oh, wait. That's right--they actually wrote down what they considered to be the essential freedoms that government is charged with protecting. It's called the Bill of Rights.

Though, let's all remember, the Bill of Rights came AFTER the Constitution, and was an essential part of the compromise that led to the ratification of the Constitution. And, let's also remember, another essential compromise that led to the ratification of the Constitution was language which continued the slave trade in the U.S. So they weren't perfect.

But those blessings were, essentially, limits on what the government could do TO people. In this day and age, we seem to have a mistaken idea that the blessings are all involved in what the government can do FOR people. And this is wrong.

If you read James Madison's notes from the Constitutional Convention, you would come away with--or, at least, I came away with--the idea that the primary concern of the C.C. was that the government not be intrusive, that power was never vested in an isolated segment of society, and that most of the acts of government be subject to checks at the local level. In other words, they were terrified that a federal government, once established, would become a burden on society in the way that the king had become one in the decades before.

I think most of them would find the bureaucracy entrenched in Washington right now offensive. I think the idea that the largest budget items are entitlements would have them laughing, and crying. I think the role that the Courts have arrogated to themselves would stun and amaze them.

But that is what "the blessings of Liberty" have come to mean. Or maybe they're assumed under "promote the general welfare." It doesn't really matter.

What it means is that we have a really muddled idea of what the "blessings of Liberty" really are.

So, I'll take the easy route, and skip that for now.

What gives me the most guidance on this clause is the last word: posterity. To my mind, what the Founders wanted was an America that would be the free for themselves, for their kids, and for their kid's kids. This clause is all about the future and about the America we want to leave our children.

And that is what matters most in my formulation of why I am a Republican.

To secure that Blessings of Liberty for my children, I need to be clear in my own head on what role the government plays in my life. And more importantly, how maleable is that role. For my part, I don't have a great deal of difficulty deciding what that is.

But that is anethema to the liberal mind. The very idea of a fixed point of reference is at odds with everything they believe in. If an idea or law doesn't feed YOUR needs and whims, the liberal "progressive" says that the law is wrong, not that the need is wrong. Thus we get judges who don't like that the Takings Clause doesn't really help feed the government beast, so they decide that the Takings Clause doesn't mean what it says and we get Kelo; or a legislator doesn't like how much money is influencing politics, regardless of "make no law abridging Free Speech," so we get BCRA, and then we get a Court affirming it. But you get the idea.

The Blessings of Liberty cannot be secured so long as what those blessings are is constantly subject to the changing whims of legislators and Courts. And while it is possible to be too slow in positively addressing the changing norms of society (see Dred Scott), I think my posterity is far better secured by a strong reliance on the text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, rather than the ever-changing whims of the liberal mind.

Of course, that places an awful lot of the burden for securing Liberty onto the Courts; that is not how I imagined the Founders pictured it, but that is part of how our system has "evolved," starting at Madison v. Marbury. Be that as it may, I think the best thing that can be done to secure Liberty then, is to ensure that Judges interpret the Constitution and the Law, not feel the right to create it.

And, of course, that is the province of the Republican Party.

Never mind that an America ruled exclusively by Democrats would abbrogate much of its sovereignty to the United Nations, and would be unlikely to protect my "posterity" from violence in the way it should. And ignoring that those most likely to disturb the "domestic tranquility" are from in their camp (see "Chicago Convention, 1968" and "OJ Simpson verdict riots" (see also "Timothy McVeigh", just for balance)).

The central question is whether there is a core of values that guide our understanding of Liberty, so that we may act in a way that preserves that for our children. The Republican Party has a core--whether you like it or not, whether they live up to it or not--, and the Democratic Party tends to have emotion and whim, subject to change at moment's notice.

And so I am a Republican.


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